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Types of Measuring Instruments

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Primitive peoples needed measuring to perform tasks such as building dwellings, fashioning clothing and interchanging food. In addition to weights and lengths, primitive societies also needed to measure the volume of liquids and the passing of time. In that time, body parts such as arms and feet were often used as measuring instruments. Measuring instruments still play a very important role in modern societies, and can refer to the Imperial or metric systems.


In primitive societies, people used plant seeds to measure the volume of a container, according to NASA. Bowls and gourds were filled with seeds that were later counted. Today, the liter is the most-used measuring unit for volume across the world, but the pint, gallon and other Imperial units are more common in the U.K. and the U.S. Graduated jugs, jars and containers are popular instruments when measuring volume at home.


In the past, time was measured simply by observing the periods of the sun and moon. Sundials were the first time-measuring tools. According to the National Maritime Museum, the earliest known sundial has at least 3,500 years and was found in Egypt. With the advent of the clock, sundials and hourglasses became obsolete. Longer periods of time, such as months and years, are measured with calendars.The Gregorian Calendar has become the most internationally accepted civil calendar.


Stones and seeds served as standard mass units with the development of scales. According to NASA, the carat is derived from the carob seed and is still used as a mass unit for precious stones. Scales have evolved since then, remaining the most popular weight measuring tool around the world. Spring scales and two-pan balance are among the most rudimentary weighing tools, while laboratory analytical scales are among the most accurate.


Early Babylonian and Egyptian records show that primitive people measured length using the forearm, hand, or finger, NASA reports. Saxon kings wore a sash or girdle around the waist, which was also used as a measuring device. The necessity of standardizing the length units gave birth to the rule, which was generally made of wood. Modern length measuring tools include the carpenter rule, the plastic measuring tape and the self-retracting measuring tape used in the building sites, which can measure lengths up to 100 meters or 328 feet. For long distances, the ideal instrument is an odometer or milometer, which measures the distance a vehicle traveled.